Stomach Viruses – No Fever Needed

26 Apr

I will admit that I have a phobia of vomiting. So – I am very very careful to limit contact with viruses that cause the stomach flu.  The stomach flu is very contagious and often misunderstood and therefore many families take there children out in public or send them to school / daycare when they are contagious, thus causing more people to get sick. Most of the time, when a child has a stomach virus, they do not have a fever.  It is more common to not have a fever with vomiting or diarrhea than it is to have a fever.  In fact, if your child is throwing up WITH a fever, I would consider that it is possible they might have something other than just a stomach virus.  Often children with strep throat will throw up and have a fever with strep throat.  Even appendicitis has the symptoms of pain, vomiting, and fever.  If your child just throws up once and then can eat a meal right after and keeps it down, it was probably something they ate.  However, too many people often think that no fever with vomiting = something they eat.  If your child throws up multiple times and isn’t eating (or if they eat and then vomit again), it is most likely the stomach virus – even with no fever.   Tylenol will not prevent illness either, one mom told me she gave her child tylenol so they wouldn’t get sick.  Tylenol works as a pain and fever reducer, it doesn’t work to prevent illness.  Antibiotics also won’t work with a stomach virus.  All viruses cannot be helped by antibiotics.  Only bacterial infections (strep throat, certain types of pneumonia, sinus infections, bronchitis) can be helped with antibiotics.  So asking for antibiotics when your child is throwing up from a stomach virus probably won’t get you anywhere.  A doctor would only prescribe it if they thought the vomiting was stemming from a bacterial infection such as strep throat, for example.  Using too many antibiotics when not needed will make you resistant to them when you do need them, so you only want to take them when truly needed.

Tylenol brings fever down. Even if you have a fever and use Tylenol to bring down the fever – please know that you or your child is still sick.  It is not “polite” to give them Tylenol to bring down the fever and then send them to school until the Tylenol wears off and the school calls you.  You are then infecting all the other kids who come in contact with your child.  Also know that Tylenol (or Motrin) treats symptoms, not the illness.   Another consideration is this – unless the fever makes you very uncomfortable – LEAVE IT ALONE – a fever is your body’s natural way of fighting the virus or infection. Your body raises the temperature to help kill the bad stuff. By taking Tylenol, you are slowing down the help your body is trying to do for you. A fever is your friend … yes, if you are MISERABLE with really high fever, get some help … but if it is that bad, the Tylenol won’t even make your temp go to normal. However, if you can deal with the fever or your child isn’t miserable (by the way, sleeping is not miserable – it is good and will help your child get better sooner) – let the fever help fight the illness.

The “Flu” – the regular flu (the virus that we get offered vaccines for each fall/winter) is almost always accompanied by a fever. If you think you have the flu and you don’t have a fever, you probably don’t have the flu (but with that said, you can still have the flu without fever – it just isn’t that common). Flu is fever with cold like symptoms and lots of fatigue and usually your body aches. The flu happens most often between October – March – with the highest chances around January and February most years. Flu usually lasts for at least a week and then kind of lingers. But note that the STOMACH FLU (see below) is not the “THE FLU.” We call it the stomach flu but it is not the influenza virus.

The STOMACH FLU –  (this is not really a flu.)  It is a virus that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and usually lasts under 12 hours. This is when you start feeling sick – are throwing up every hour or so – and after a few hours (sometimes just a couple to up to 12 – longer if it is a nasty case of Rotavirus) start to feel better. You have to eat slowly to get your stomach used to food again. This virus does not cause a fever in most people. So – if you or your child throws up multiple times in a few hour span but doesn’t have a fever – they most likely have the stomach flu and should not be around other people. Don’t think that if they don’t have a fever – it must just be “something they ate.” Most of the time, it is not something they ate (in all my life, I have had the stomach bug multiple times and only ONCE was it from “something I ate.”). If they vomit only once and they can eat fine – then they probably are not sick.   Do they need to go see the doctor? In most cases, not unless they are dehydrated or have other symptoms that suggest it might be more than the stomach flu. The best way to treat a stomach flu is to let the stomach rest for at least 2 hours after vomiting then start with small sips (like a tablespoon) of water.  Give the sip every 20 minutes, if after an hour, no vomiting occurred, increase the sips to twice as much, still every 20 minutes.  Don’t over do how much liquid you give or the child will just vomit again.  Once the child can drink and hold down liquids for a few hours, if they are hungry (and only if), they should start with some simple crackers or toast, small amounts and wait and hour in between.  Go slow and if tolerated, you can increase it.  They should stay home for at least 24 hours after vomiting and be really good about washing their hands after using the bathroom.  They can still shed the virus for 2 weeks after being sick.  Be respectful.  Don’t inflict that on others! Don’t send them to school if they are still sick- don’t take them into Walmart while they are sick and remember they are still somewhat contagious even once they are better. If your child is sick – if you are sick – please STAY HOME! These viruses are VERY contagious. Did you know that they can also live on surfaces in your house for 2 weeks or more? So, if your child is sick and a week later when your child has been well for 6 days – they have a friend come over – if you missed a spot when cleaning – or maybe you didn’t go nuts with bleach like I do after someone in my house is sick – well, that friend could catch it! Yes, a week later – at your house – long after your child has been well!

So – to summarize…

Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections – colds, stomach bugs, and the flu are not bacterial!

The FLU is the regular winter flu – it generally does not cause vomiting – and usually does have a fever but is different from the Stomach Flu!

The STOMACH FLU – or STOMACH BUG – usually does not a fever – that is the norm. If your child throws up multiple times, it probably isn’t just something they ate.

DON’T probably don’t need to rush to the ER and doctors as soon as your child throws up in most cases – the doctor will tell you “your child has a stomach virus – gradually increase liquids, don’t let them dehydrate and put them on a bland diet (BRAT diet) until they feel better. However, trust your gut and if you feel your child seems very sick or listless, always be cautious and make the trip.

DON’T take your child out in public when they are sick! Think of others.  And remember that the virus can live in your house for weeks!!!

One last thing? How can I stop the Stomach Flu? The obvious answer is hand washing (lots of it!) especially before eating!!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and this advice is based on medical fact about viruses and bacterial illnesses as well as personal experiences of a mother of four.


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Leave a Reply


  1. Lisa Tate

    April 15, 2011 at 11:39 am

    You answered my question clearly and concisely.

    Thank you,

  2. becky

    May 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I LOVE this!!!! I know people that think if their kid doesn’t have a fever and throws up multiple times it IS something they ate- it drives me NUTS!! Or they were just congested and swalowed too much phlem… oh every excuse. AND if they take them to the store & just have them sit in the cart and not touch anything that its OK! Bothers the heck out of me. I appreciate your comments. THANK U!

  3. Laura

    May 29, 2011 at 7:49 am

    So after twelve hours are they still contagious. Or it it a day later???I just experienced this. Vomiting, loose stools and no fever.

  4. lynne

    October 3, 2011 at 9:33 am

    They are contagious for 24 hours after vomiting and loose stools stop. It takes 24 hours for the intestinal track to heal from the “trauma” of the illness. Always go slow with reintroducing any food back into the diet.

  5. April

    October 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    WONDERFUL POST!!! If only every parent would READ it!
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Chuck

    November 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

    Going through this, stomach virus, at this very moment. Wonderful post. Very helpful. My son is throwing up, to the point of “dry heaving”. Of course it is the “worst pain ever” for him and he is sure that I have “never” felt anything like this before in my life. He is 8 🙂 Little does he know how my heart breaks to see him like this…. Thank you again for the post. It seemed to help reading it to him.

  7. Sarah

    November 18, 2011 at 2:43 am

    OMG! i am glad I read this post. Yes, I am a mom of a 2 year old that is throwing up and I honestly thought it was something he ate. He was acting fine every time he threw up. He never did this before and it has been freaking me out. Thank you for this post it has helped out a lot and I wish I read it sooner. I wouldn’t have left the house with him today.

  8. April

    November 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I also have a severe fear of vomiting. The facts in your post are things that I tell people over and over, but in my experience, most people (even some who have children) don’t give it much thought and just accept stomach bugs as a normal part of life. Unfortunately, most people don’t view the ‘stomach flu’ as something to strongly avoid and therefore don’t give much thought to containing the spread of it. It really drives me nuts to hear that someone was ill “yesterday” and out in public or trying to visit my home (or invite me to theirs) the very next day, stating that they’re not sick any more or that it was something they ate so it’s fine. I’d like to be the one to decide whether or not “it’s fine” for me, thanks very much, and I can’t do that when people are just spreading it around due to ignorance or sheer inconsideration for others. I try to steer clear of people who I know have been ill for at least a week as I’m aware that even if they’re not still shedding the virus, the surfaces in their home are likely still contaminated. I suppose my point is that I very much appreciate people who try to teach others how to prevent the spread of these nasty viruses, but I also know that most people just don’t care that much about it, which is a shame!

  9. michelle

    December 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you SO much. My (almost) 8 year old is going through this now and had a pity party of 1 all day. Truth is, it breaks my heart to see him like this. He actually set a timer so he’d know when he could try to take a sip of something again. He said, “wow, an hour’s a really long time when you’re waiting for something.” Poor guy! Don’t tell him, but we actually did (dun dun dun) MATH–(i.e., if 30 minutes has gone by, how much more time to we have to wait until it’s an hour – and so forth). Anyways, little sleep deprived here, but wanted to say, “thanks!”

  10. Reina

    January 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    My mother strarted feeling sick and the next day my 5yr old got sick my mom is better but now my other daughters have it the vomiting and diarrhea but no fever i kept everyone in because of these comments i have been spaying lysol every where now a couple hrs later i started feeling sick but thanks to every post now im not going crazy …THANKS EVERYONE FOR INFO ON THIS

  11. Claire

    January 21, 2012 at 10:37 am

    so lets say I was sick for about 6 days and when I’m almost better, I wake up at 2 in the morning and feel sick to my stomach. Nothing happens so I go back to sleep and when I wake up in the morning I do end up throwing up. Is that something to do with after effect of the flue or what? And is it normal to be throwing up one day, not the next, and then the next day throw up… This usally goes on for about a week. -Thank you, Claire

  12. andrea williams

    February 19, 2012 at 3:38 am

    I too have a phobia of vomiting. But I also know that if any one of my children vomits more than once there’s something going on. Just the thought of it tears my nerves all to pieces. I am glad to know that someone shares this phobia with me. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me. Thank you for this post.

  13. carrie

    March 22, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Is it still the stomach flu when there is no throwing up, just diareah for days? No fever, of course. My son is four and he is still very active. He just keeps having diareah.

  14. Mary Ann

    April 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Also, it is not low blood sugar! Several children vomiting in church, looking miserable is NOT low blood sugar, which their mother claimed. Seriously, several people’s children were sick just about a day later because this person didn’t want to stay home!

    Just one vomit-phobe to another!

  15. Nina Killen

    April 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    I was just desperate because my two year old girl was feeling very sick she was vomiting constantly almost 7 times and then diharrea many times. I was almost in tears trying to figure it out and found this post. Thanks a lot.

  16. Samantha

    November 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Thank goodness I read this because I was throwing up today and was scared I didn’t go to school today or to the doctor I didn’t have a tempeture I am 11

  17. nena

    December 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Well, Why is the stomach virus so easy to catch ? it is because people are careless or because it is airbourne?

  18. lynne

    December 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    It is actually due to hygiene. From what I read, the virus is passed through stool and vomit. So when someone is sick and doesn’t wash their hands well enough after using the bathroom and then touches something or vomit particles spray out, they land on surfaces which get picked up from the next person touching it. The thing is that people shed the virus before they get sick and for up to 2 weeks AFTER they are well. So when kids go back to school after being sick and don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom or don’t wash well enough, they pass it on and more kids get sick. I am sure there are adults too that don’t wash well enough (or at all) after using the bathroom that pass it on too. They say it takes a very tiny amount of the “germ” to make someone sick so that is why it is so contagious. Washing hands and using bleach to clean after someone is sick is the best way to try and stay healthy. Hand sanitizers do not kill the stomach virus. There are special ones that you can special order that will but the ones in the stores that are just alcohol based do not.

  19. Bailey Senn

    December 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

    I love this article. My thoughts exactly. My husband gets mad at me because if anyone we know gets sick I do not go anywhere near them for at LEAST a week. Not only that in the winter months when it is most prevalent I tend to quarantine my entire family except for work which my husband and I are notorious for cleanliness. Part of the reason my oldest (only school age child) is homeschooled. My husband thinks I am crazy but I have a phobia of throwing up and will head for the hills if I even hear of a stranger in public having been sick. I don’t even like going to my doctor or my kids because it seems as you mention that every parent brings their kid in when they have a “bug.” My advice don’t take your kid in unless as you say they are severely dehydrated or have been vomiting more than 12 hours AND you have already called a doctor or nurse with no improvement. Where I live people are doing the “ALL natural” kick no vaccines and no wheat or dairy etc., well their biggest thing to do now is if your kid is sick or you are sick resume life and spread the germs amongst friends so everyone else can build their immune system from it. I mean they do this with colds, chicken pox, strep, “bugs” ( viruses), the actual flu, etc.. It is disgusting and my husband and I are looking to move because of it. Sorry for the rambling on but the point is you never know now-a-days who has what or is carrying what so hygiene is a must. Side note and final one didn’t know if you knew but there is new research showing that different blood types react to the stomach bug differently like some will hardly ever get it while others are more prone to it.

  20. Nicki

    January 8, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Thank you!

  21. Tanya

    January 14, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Thanks for you post. I am emetephobic too and it drives me crazy when I am out somewhere with other families chatting to someone and they casually mention that their kid vomited during the night but it was only a couple of times and they are fine now…are you seriously kidding me! I feel like shaking them til their teeth rattle, just because a kids isn’t vomiting right at this moment doesn’t mean they aren’t still contagious!

  22. brigitte torres

    January 16, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Ok you pretty much reassured me on my child’s condition but what about the lack of wet diapers. How many few diapers can she have until I should be worried. She is only one years old and has a stomach virus. I’m concerned she may be dehydrated. I have already taking her to the ER.

  23. lynne

    January 16, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I am not a doctor but am a Mom of 4 – so I can only tell you from my experience but dehydration is something to be concerned about with a baby who is throwing up. If you aren’t getting wet diapers, take her to the pediatrician and let them decide if she needs an IV. If you have just been to the ER, the ER doctors should have given her an IV, I would think.

  24. Karlee

    April 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    It is important to note that the only thing that will kill most stomach viruses is bleach. So if someone is vomiting or having some sort of gastrointestinal virus you need to use bleach to clean up the mess and the surfaces in the household.

  25. Sheila

    May 9, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    I don’t understand a school system that has a policy that the school nurse may not call a parent unless the child has a fever. Really? What about a 6th grader who has never been to the nurses office? My daughter reported a bellyache and nausea to the nurse at 9:30 a.m. She was sent back to class because of the absence of fever. She saw the nurse again at 11:30. This time her temp was not even taken and was sent back to class again and explained that she would not call home because of the policy . My daughter then texted me on her phone from the restroom
    To come and sign her out. I signed her out at 12:15. When I felt her forehead I immediately knew that she had fever. The principal was more concerned that my girl had texted me because its against school policy. he would not touch my daughters forehead to see for himself. When we arrived home at 12:30 I took her temp. It was 101.5. It’s now 8:00 pm and her temp is 100 after Tylenol. I wonder how many kids she exposed to this because she couldn’t leave school when she needed to. So help me if this little girl is punished for texting me every school board member will hear from me. And this my friends is why parents choose to homeschool. Where’s the common sense here?

  26. Lisa

    June 18, 2013 at 3:50 am

    This is invaluable. I was just about to take my 12-year-old to the hospital at 4 AM because he’d been throwing up all night, but then I checked his temperature twice and he didn’t have a fever and was about to think it was “something he ate”. After reading your article I won’t be taking him to the hospital, I will keep him home from summer school, I’ll start him on a BRAT diet in a couple of hours, and I WILL run out and by a couple of cans of Lysol. Thank you SO much for posting this.

  27. Jewels

    October 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    Help. My son just threw up. It is never continual but very intermittent. Since April Maybe 4 mornings right when he woke up before eating anything. Then again in May and few days. Once after lunch but the others were in the morning. Then again in June and again in July. Not again until today after just eating a salad with bacon, spinach, tomatoes, celery. Nothing new. Didn’t make it to the bathroom and up it came. He is 12. Skinny. Tells us every time it happens. At first we thought it was the flu so we gave him the brat diet. Then we read somewhere that maybe he was throwing up due to NOT ENOUGH nutrients. He has grown about 5 inches this year (taller). He was out in the sun today for a bit at the pumpkin farm and needed to sit in the shade and get a drink due to being hot and tired. Do we just need to feed him more protein? more nutrients? What can we do for this little guy? It just doesn’t make sense.

  28. Nik

    December 10, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Thank you so much. Very informative as it is 2:30 am and I was getting concerned with the no fever part. Good to know. Thanks again!

  29. darlene

    December 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I am also so terribly petrified of the stomach flu (virus). I also believed that my son was sick from mucus. He has been throwing up all day since this morning at 7. I then called the school to see what could be going on. Their office said oh yes they have 9 children off because of vomiting including the teacher! WOW, I am in a state of panic, my husband thinks I am crazy and over reacting. I am spraying everything with Lysol and so afraid myself or daughter and hubby will get it. Ahhh! Thank you for this post, because I really believed there needed to be a fever also. But regardless I don’t send my child to school when they are sick.

  30. beverley

    January 3, 2014 at 11:34 am

    This article is one of the best written I have ever read. Complete, precise, and clear. I now feel fully confident I know what my grandson and then I had. I like having the added knowledge that will help in avoiding spreading it around. Thank you.

  31. trey

    January 11, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    This was clearly written by a SAHP who has no appreciation for the demands faced by working (especially single parents).

  32. Jo-an

    January 20, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Thank u. Very helpful..and I agree as commented before, everyone…parents…moms should read this. My 8yr old woke up, threw fever. Ate a piece of cracker & A SIP of mt. dew..threw up in a couple minutes…45 mins later she went back to bed.sound asleep. Would take this from her in a heart beat if I could. All about washing meticulously and spraying Lysol for day..then always! Thanks again (12 to 24hrs to go).

    A watchful teary eyed mom…

  33. Mick Rosser

    January 22, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Excellent page, put myself and my wifes mind at ease, its frightening for all having a sick child. Many thanks from England.

  34. Susan

    February 4, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Couple years’ later, and your post is still helpful. My teen is sick and hasn’t been this way for a long time; I was looking for info to confirm that the steps I am taking are correct. Thank you.

  35. Kristie Mickelson

    May 3, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Thank you!! I was getting anxious but you made me feel better about my 6 yr old vomiting w no fever.

  36. Lauren

    June 13, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Thank you. Me and my son have been sick since after dinner with it coming out on both ends. I thought it was dinner but we are the only two up chucking. Must have picked up something when we went to the store together a few hours prior to dinner.

  37. lynne

    June 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I do care about working parents which is why I feel it is important to keep sick kids away from people so that other working parents don’t get sick and aren’t having to take many days off when it works it way through the whole family because someone brought a sick to school or the store.